Tanner Glass

Ryan Reaves breathes new life into NHL career

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Basically, you can break down Ryan Reaves‘ cross-check on John Carlson before his 4-4 goal from Game 1 in two ways:

  • An embarrassment because NHL officials missed the infraction.
  • An indictment of the league’s unspoken policy not to make calls because they want to “let them play,” when such decisions actually impede players from playing properly.

Objectively, that goal should not have counted, and the Capitals should have gone on the power play with a 4-3 lead during the third period of Game 1. If you want to hear about it, ask your nearest Caps fan.

(Check out Mike Milbury’s take in this video.)

All of that aside … wow, that was a pretty impressive shot by Reaves. Watch what was a key goal in the Vegas Golden Knights’ 6-4 win over Washington in Game 1 in the clip above this post’s headline.

While they happened more than a week apart thanks to a lengthy layoff, Reaves is now on a two-game playoff goal streak, and the first one sent Vegas to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Oh, and it was a nice one, too:

Best hockey of his life

Moments like these remind you that even depth NHL players often boast way more talent than you might otherwise believe. Hey, Tanner Glass scored the first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it was pretty nice as well.

Reaves’ nice play is about more than a few fluke moments, too.

Via Natural Stat Trick, his Corsi For rating is up to 57.26 percent at even-strength over seven playoff games. (That’s really good.) Obviously, it’s a comically microscopic sample size, yet it impresses upon a larger theme: this Golden Knights team is simply teeming with players who are enjoying the runs of their hockey lives.

Let me make a prediction: at least one of the NHL’s 31 GMs is taking notice of this Reaves run.

If you must …

The 31-year-old is a pending UFA, and while it’s obvious that he has a standing in the NHL (the Penguins did give up a first-rounder for him just last summer), Reaves is also of a dying breed.

That’s where things get even more interesting, actually.

Personally, I don’t think an NHL team should make a huge investment in Reaves. Don’t get me wrong; it’s fun and bewildering to see this renaissance happen, even with the occasional mixed feeling (much like when John Scott enjoyed his strange ascent to 2017 NHL All-Star Game MVP). My educated guess is that, in a vacuum, you’re probably better off devoting money and a roster spot to a skilled, “modern-style” player.

It’s in context that Reaves could be legitimately useful to a GM.

See, the vast majority of coaches seem to have this urge to have that “one guy,” usually a rough-and-tumble type whose style is becoming outmoded in the NHL.

For Mike Babcock, it’s questionable defenseman Roman Polak. Alain Vigneault’s love of Tanner Glass tormented more than a few Rangers fans. You could extend this exercise to virtually every coach in the league.

The opportunity comes if Reaves or Polak could stand as a “compromise” addition.

A GM could, theoretically, try to persuade a coach to lean in younger, more skillful directions by throwing them a bone by adding a Reaves-type player. Rangers fans, for instance, likely would have been at least a bit less annoyed with Glass’ frequent presence if it meant more, earlier opportunities for a potential difference-maker such as Pavel Buchnevich (whose best chance to prove himself came last season, a year late in the eyes of many).

Ideally, Reaves could “check that box” without dragging his team down too much when he’s on the ice. There could be times that even applies to the playoffs, as he’s less likely to take bad penalties because officials are more reluctant to use their whistles.

Good things have frequently happened for Vegas when Reaves has been on the ice, and it might happen to the point where it would throw things out of balance. In other words, this light bit of optimism might be dashed if, say, the Oilers or Canadiens handed Reaves a $3 million cap hit with term. In that case … ignore the happy parts of this post, as that would become a headache for everyone except Reaves’ accountant.

/shudders

Still, if you enjoy redemption stories, there’s something to like here with Reaves. Here’s hoping that the story remains positive along the way.

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MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rangers fire Alain Vigneault

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New York Rangers fans got their wish with #FireAV, as the team parted ways with head coach Alain Vigneault. The news was first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

After the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff spot against the Rangers in a 5-0 drubbing, Vigneault told reporters that he expected to be back with the team.

“Yes, yes, without a doubt. I think my staff is the right staff for this job,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “I think one of the strongest assets of this organization is its coaching staff and their experience.”

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

The Rangers concluded their fifth season under Vigneault with a 34-39-9 record. This was the first time the Rangers failed to make the playoffs with AV behind the bench. His first season (2013-14) ended up being his best in New York, as the Rangers fell to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers also made it to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final under Vigneault.

Despite some significant regular-season successes and some playoff triumphs, fans quibbled with many of his lineup decisions. Many were irritated that Vigneault often turned to Tanner Glass, and beyond that, he drew plenty of critiques for his reluctance to trust young players.

Vigneault appeared to be on the hot seat after a terrible start to 2017-18, yet the Rangers rallied for a portion of the season, delaying the seemingly inevitable.

The team also sent out a letter essentially acknowledging a coming rebuild, which cemented the notion that AV’s time might have been limited. It turns out that Vigneault will not be around to help the Rangers rebuild, whether that means a quick fix-up or something that takes a little longer.

[How the Rangers rebuild could pick up steam.]

This brings about plenty of questions. What happens with assistant Lindy Ruff? Will another NHL team be interested in bringing in Vigneault or would AV decide to take some paid time off?

There are plenty of interesting factors here, but we won’t need to wonder another moment about Vigneault’s future in New York.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Karlsson’s killer clincher for Vegas; Lucic fights Glass

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Clinching

  • The Vegas Golden Knights probably couldn’t have clinched the Pacific Division in a more fitting way: on a dramatic, shorthanded goal by William Karlsson. Karlsson scored his 42nd goal of 2017-18 with incredible style, confounding Martin Jones with a ridiculous between-the-legs shot. See that goal in the highlight of the night section.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins will be able to defend their repeat title (in other words, go for a “threepeat”) after clinching their 12th consecutive trip to the playoffs.
  • Nashville wasn’t able to clinch the Central Division, but the Winnipeg Jets will finish no worse than second after winning against Toronto. So, a franchise without a single playoff win will get at least one round of home-ice advantage.
  • Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Stars kept their slim odds alive.

Injury concerns

Ryan Suter, Viktor Arvidsson, Travis Dermott, Brandon Carlo, and Victor Antipin rank among players with injury worries. Find out more here and here.

Highlights of the Night

This Karlsson goal is just ridiculous.

Let’s watch it from another angle.

There were a lot of ugly moments for Nashville in its 7-4 loss to Buffalo, with Scott Hartnell hurting Victor Antipin. This was pretty, however:

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Players of the Night

  • Jack Eichel collected a ridiculous five assists in Buffalo’s win against Nashville, crossing the 100-assist barrier for his career. Sam Reinhart generated a hat trick for the Sabres, too.

  • Antti Raanta collected a 34-save shutout as the Coyotes shocked the Blues 6-0. Solid night for spoilers.
  • The Blue Jackets lost in overtime, but don’t blame their top guys. Seth Jones scored a goal and three assists while Artemi Panarin collected four helpers as Columbus generated a key standing point.

Heavyweight bout

It hasn’t been a great season for Milan Lucic, but hey, at least he handled heavyweight bruiser Tanner Glass in this brutal fight:

Scores

Bruins 5, Panthers 1
Red Wings 2, Senators 0
Canucks 5, Blue Jackets 4 (OT)
Jets 3, Maple Leafs 1
Devils 4, Islanders 3
Penguins 5, Canadiens 2
Rangers 2, Hurricanes 1
Sabres 7, Predators 4
Stars 4, Wild 1
Coyotes 6, Blues 0
Flames 3, Oilers 2
Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Why are there so many empty seats at Red Wings games?

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Brady Skjei had an impressive rookie season, but he’s struggled this season. His sophomore slump isn’t even really his fault. He hasn’t seen much ice time on the power play and his defense partner keeps changing. (bluelinestation.com)

–The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season. They’ve been able to generate offense because their blue liners get involved in the attacking end too. “That’s what makes us successful when we are getting guys in and out letting our D get in because they can see (forwards) are supporting them and being behind them. It creates confusion on the defense,” center Brandon Dubinsky said. (Columbus Dispatch)

–The Capitals have played just five games at home this season and they haven’t looked very good on home ice. One of the big reasons they’re  struggling in Washington is because their special teams play has been brutal. (Washington Post)

–The Ottawa Senators have come up with a couple of new hats, and it’s safe to say that the fine folks at welcometoyourkarlssonyears.com aren’t big fans of the new merchandise. (welcometoyourkarlssonyears.com)

Miles Wood took the blame for New Jersey’s loss to Calgary on Sunday night. The Devils forward hasn’t found the back of the net in eight games and pucksandpitchforks.com believes it’s because he’s putting too much pressure on himself. (pucksandpitchforks.com)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has had a couple of quiet season with the Oilers over the last few years, but he’s really turned it on of late. He’s playing more of an offensive role now, which is good for him and the team. (oilonwhyte.com)

Matt Duchene played almost 600 games with the Colorado Avalanche, so Mile High Hockey decided to take a look back at his journey with the team. From when he was drafted to All-Star games to a contract dispute, Duchene has seen it all. (milehighhockey.com)

–The Flames decided to waive veteran Tanner Glass on Monday. It’ll be interesting to see who the team recalls from the minors if Glass clears waivers. (flamesnation.ca)

–The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds will reportedly play two outdoor games at Safeco Field by 2019. The timing of all this is interesting considering there are plenty of rumors about the NHL going to Seattle in the coming years. (Seattle Times)

–The Detroit Red Wings have announced sellouts for every one of their home games so far this season, but there’s been a ton of empty seats at Little Caesars Arena. One economist suggests that all the new features in the arena have taken the attention off the game. (Detroit News)

–Jaela O’Brien is a young hockey goalie that was diagnosed with cancer a little while ago. Her meetings with some Minnesota Wild players and Jonathan Quick helped her in recovery. “He’s still my favorite player,” O’Brien said of Quick. “He’s athletic and he reminds me a lot of myself. He always makes crazy saves. He seems like a good person too.” (NHL.com)

–There haven’t been a ton of positives for the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-18. The performance of rookie Clayton Keller is one of the bright spots for them this season. The ‘Yotes can build around Keller, but they absolutely need to get him some help. (spectorshockey.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

We may see a rematch of that Jamie Benn – Dustin Byfuglien fight

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Confession: generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of hockey fights. To be specific, the choreographed ones featuring career fighters tends to be gross and/or boring far more frequently than they are exciting.

(Besides, why watch guys fight for a living in a relatively awkward hockey setting instead of trained fighters in MMA or boxing?)

Maybe we can blame this on Vincent Lecavalier vs. Jarome Iginla, but the exceptions also often come down to when skilled/star players drop the gloves. This isn’t to say that those bouts are always predicated on passion, yet they tend to seem more “real” than when some poor soul tangles with Tanner Glass.

It goes over the top when you either see two big, bruising stars throw knuckles (although the flip side of two tiny, often-ineffective fighters can be fun for the comic relief of it all). With that in mind, a recent Dustin ByfuglienJamie Benn bout was quite the sight. Watch it in the video above this post’s headline, and then consider this: Benn told Buffy to prepare from round two when the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets face each other tonight.

Wow. Can officials call an instigator penalty before a game even starts?

(Fun fight fact: according to Hockey Fights, Benn has dropped the gloves with David Backes three times, while every other opponent was a one-off. Byfuglien’s never fought anyone more than once … until tonight?

For those who are entertained by big-time bouts, this has been a quality-over-quantity start to the 2017-18 season, as you may remember Ryan Johansen and Joe Pavelski squaring off.

Stars – Jets already figured to be a game to watch considering the offensive firepower on both sides, but if you need some violence sprinkled into all that talent and finesse, then it might check off that box for you, too.

Now, since we brought it up, here’s Iginla vs. Lecavalier:

(Note: an image search didn’t come up with anything for Benn vs. Byfuglien, so when in doubt, go with that funny-great photo of Joe Thornton vs. Benn, right?

H/T to Sportsnet)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.